In recent years, post-rock has been losing the innovative spark that had been its driving force. Though first rebelling against the vocally dominated, verse-chorus-verse song structure of rock, post-rock bands have now adapted the very sameness they hated. Every band I find seems to adhere to the same tired formula of constant intensity, wailing guitars, and an emotional need that rivals the cheesiest emo band. Instead of trying to recreate the canon, newer bands should focus on replicating the creativity of their predecessors.
Look at Godspeed You! Black Emperor. When you first hear their album Lift Your Skinny Fists Like Antennas to Heaven, it’s impossible not to cringe. The album has four songs that are divided into movements with names like “She Dreamt She Was a Bulldozer, She Dreamt She Was Alone in an Empty Field” and “Edgyswingsetacid.” There are multiple guitarists, bassists, drummers, and horn players plus a violinist and a cellist. You can’t help but expect the level of bombast that killed bands like Genesis and Yes.
But that fear never comes true. Like most post-rock bands, Godspeed You! Black Emperor focuses on aesthetic. But instead of the emotional hammer-over-the-head that much of post-rock has turned to, it opts for a more minimal approach. It is easy to forget that this is a nine-piece band, since few instruments play simultaneously. They proselytize with a restraint that is almost non-existent in post-rock, yet beneath the sparseness lies a frantic tension that festers and at times explodes with a force made even more astounding by its suddenness. It disappears as soon as it arrives, letting your mind try to figure out what you just listened to.
I’m not saying that all post-rock bands should become a nine-piece minimalist influenced musical leviathan. But post-rock needs to stop relying so much on the motifs that originally propelled it to the fringes of the mainstream. In order to establish a future, post-rock bands must look toward the past to shed their current shackles of conformity.